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Reminders, Tips, and Wrinkles for Repertory Grid Interviewing

This is the seventh and last part of a set of hints designed to help people who want to use Repertory Grid but don’t have much experience and/or access to supervision


This final part is intended to help you if you get stuck, or need a spot of inspiration. There’s no continuous theme; just a collection of Handy Household Hints. If any reader would like to contribute, we’d be pleased to include them.

  1. Don’t forget that Grid is a conversation. Yes, I know, we’ve said that before, but no apologies for saying it again.
  2. The same goes for: Pilot your session and Plan Your Analysis as part of the design.
  3. Don’t assume that somewhere out there is a generic Grid analysis program which you can call up at will. There are many kinds of analysis – including a fair number which don’t use a computer – and you need to choose the appropriate analysis in advance.
  4. No analysis program will spare you the task of interpreting the results in terms of your purpose.
  5. Consider where in the interview you will learn the most – which could be anywhere from the answers to element creation questions to the relationships in the analysed matrix, and plan your process and timing accordingly.
  6. Set out your contract with your interviewee: why you’re doing the Grid, what will happen to the results, any issues about confidentiality, etc.
  7. If your interviewee seems to get stuck early on, remember that people can’t do a Grid about something they know nothing about. If that’s not the problem, remember that you will hardly ever go wrong by making your elements more concrete: things, people, time-bound events or activities. It’s a common mistake to make a feature of an element into an element.
  8. You’ll probably get propositional constructs early on. Don’t worry, because the first task is to establish the two-against-one principle with the interviewee (and you can use propositional constructs in laddering). But if you keep getting propositional constructs, try being really explicit about including the qualifier (the ‘.... in terms of’ phrase) in your question. If that still doesn’t break the log-jam, you may have a problem with your interviewee’s comfort level: because Grid can’t be faked, an uncomfortable interviewee only has two choices: to go silent or to give propositional constructs. Go back and check your contract and whether the interviewee is comfortable with it.
  9. Grid gives you lots of bites at the cherry. You can do a few constructs, a spot of laddering, a few more constructs, some rating .... the important thing is to keep a good flow going and make the interviewee feel comfortable and able to see where you’re going
  10. Try to get constructs in the form X - Y, rather than X - not X; both poles should carry equal weight. Creative - Has no Imagination is better than Creative - Not Creative.
  11. It is not the case that one pole of the construct should be ‘good’ and the other ‘bad’.
  12. When referring to construct poles, talk about the contrast pole rather than the opposite pole. Learn to ask the question ‘How would you describe the other one, by contrast?’
  13. It’s OK to re-write a construct when you start using it to rate all the elements.
  14. Not all the elements in the world can be rated on all the constructs in the world. If you find that it’s difficult to use a construct to rate more than a few of the elements, ask the interviewee if they’d like to drop it or re-phrase it.
  15. An in-depth interview in ‘reflective’ mode may need to be spread over several sessions while the interviewee processes what’s happened so far.
  16. Don’t construe other people’s construing – it’s not up to you to decide what’s important, or high priority, or meaningful. Ask the interviewee. It’s a joint exploration.
  17. Practise being non-interventionist, and not offering your own contributions, so that you can be sure of the point when you stopped being a recorder and moved into the ‘helpful interpreter’ mode.
  18. Feedback, especially in a ‘reflective’ Grid, is part of the process, not the end-point.
  19. Leave time and space at the end for you to check the interviewee’s comfort level, ask for feedback, repeat what will happen to the data, ask if there are any last-minute thoughts.
  20. Grid is a technique which can serve you all your life. It can change the way you listen, think, ask questions, and be aware of yourself. It’s worth learning properly. The good news is that the learning curve is steep: if you are reflective and/or lucky enough to have someone observe you, most new Gridders will have mastered the basics with four or five practice interviews. You then spend the rest of your life learning more.

I’ve used Grid for nearly thirty years. I can honestly say that I’ve never got tired of it. I always find something new to honour in the technique. Sometimes I think that it could only have been designed by someone who was half engineer and half psychologist, which George Kelly was. He has left us a unique gift. Thank you, George.

Prepared by Dr Valerie Stewart

Skills for an Effective Rep Grid Interviewer

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